Two years after state lawmakers granted children from poor-performing schools the right to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, most children using the program are leaving high-performing public schools in wealthy districts, an analysis by The Arizona Republic has found.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts allow parents to take tax money that would otherwise go directly to their local public schools and put it toward private-school tuition. Passed in 2011 as a program only for disabled children, the Legislature has continued to expand it, including to children in failing schools and others.
Lawmakers are now considering allowing all public-school students to use ESAs by 2020.
The Senate voted 17-13 Monday to expand the program to all public-school students. The House of Representatives was scheduled to debate on the bill Wednesday morning but held it, a sign that it might not have the votes needed to advance.
The Republic found that during the 2015-16 school year, the program accounted for $20.6 million being taken out of public schools that were rated A or B. Only $6.3 million was taken from schools rated C or D by the Arizona Department of Education, far less than the share of C and D schools statewide.